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Architecture and Interpretation

Architecture and Interpretation: Essays for Eric Fernie

Jill A. Franklin
T. A. Heslop
Christine Stevenson
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 432
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  • Book Info
    Architecture and Interpretation
    Book Description:

    Architecture affects us on a number of levels. It can control our movements, change our experience of our own scale, create a particular sense of place, focus memory, and act as a statement of power and taste, to name but a few. Yet the ways in which these effects are brought about are not yet well understood. The aim of this book is to move the discussion forward, to encourage and broaden debate about the ways in which architecture is interpreted, with a view to raising levels of intellectual engagement with the issues in terms of the theory and practice of architectural history. The range of material covered extends from houses constructed from mammoth bones around 15,000 years ago in the present-day Ukraine to a surfer's memorial in Carpinteria, California; other subjects include the young Michelangelo seeking to transcend genre boundaries; medieval masons' tombs; and the mythographies of early modern Netherlandish towns. Taking as their point of departure the ways in which architecture has been, is, and can be written about and otherwise represented, the editors' substantial Introduction provides an historiographical framework for, and draws out the themes and ideas presented in, the individual contributors' essays. Contributors: Christine Stevenson, T. A. Heslop, John Mitchell, Malcolm Thurlby, Richard Fawcett, Jill A. Franklin, Stephen Heywood, Roger Stalley, Veronica Sekules, John Onians, Frank Woodman, Paul Crossley, David Hemsoll, Kerry Downes, Richard Plant, Jenifer Ní Ghrádraigh, Lindy Grant, Elisabeth de Bièvre, Stefan Muthesius, Robert Hillenbrand, Andrew M. Shanken, Peter Guillery.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-049-1
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-xv)
  4. Preface: In Appreciation
    (pp. xvi-xvi)
    Jill A. Franklin, T. A. Heslop and Christine Stevenson
  5. List of Contributors
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-15)
    Christine Stevenson and T. A. Heslop

    Over the last three millenni a our planet has been increasingly covered with buildings. Humans are not the only species to reconfigure their environments, but we are special in the speed and variety of means by which we have done so, and in the deliberation involved in the process. That last point is crucial, for there is no likelihood that snails forming their shells ‘deliberate’, and scant evidence that birds building their nests do. Even beavers constructing dams are likely to be genetically programmed to do so rather than consciously deciding. Although Christopher Wren thought that the ‘Project of Building...

  7. Believing is Seeing: The Natural Image in Late Antiquity
    (pp. 16-41)
    John Mitchell

    Eric, it seems to me, has always harboured an inclination to entertain a bold thesis, to venture down a potentially stimulating path of speculative inquiry, as long as he has felt reasonably sure of his ground – the ingenious paper in which he reframed our vision of that Mona Lisa of prehistoric architecture, Stonehenge, comes immediately to mind.¹ I want to take this sense as licence for offering him the following essay, a token of long friendship and admiration. The argument is founded in large part on the evidence of curiously configured columns, and this seems most apposite, since Eric...

  8. Articulation as an Expression of Function in Romanesque Architecture
    (pp. 42-59)
    Malcolm Thurlby

    In an article entitled ‘The Romanesque Piers of Norwich Cathedral’, Eric Fernie drew attention to the relationship between the four spiral columns in the nave of the cathedral and the location of the nave altar of the Holy Cross, arguing that this was the product of an integrated design in which differences in pier form were established at the outset of construction, rather than resulting from a change of plan.¹ He labelled this approach ‘architectural synthesis’, to differentiate it from architectural analysis, and suggested that an architectural historian should approach a building in the belief that it was constructed as...

  9. Barrel-Vaulted Churches in Late Medieval Scotland
    (pp. 60-77)
    Richard Fawcett

    Scottish medieval church architecture took on its most distinctive form between the late fourteenth century and the Reformation of the Church that was formalized in the parliament of 1560.¹ Before then, over the course of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the closest ongoing architectural relationships in the Lowland areas had been with England, although it is true that by the later thirteenth century masons were demonstrating an increasing willingness to develop solutions in which models from south of the Border might be little more than a starting point. It may also have been the case by then that Lowland Scotland...

  10. Augustinian and other Canons’ Churches in Romanesque Europe: The Significance of the Aisleless Cruciform Plan
    (pp. 78-98)
    Jill A. Franklin

    The ideas explored in this paper are based on the premise that, for a brief period of about three decades, within the reign of King Henry I (1100–35), church design for English Augustinian canons normally adhered to a particular type of plan, one that was cruciform with an unaisled nave and chancel. The premise is underpinned by evidence which is set out in more detail elsewhere.¹ This paper interprets this evidence from, broadly speaking, a humanist point of view.² The question at its heart, one which only art historians seriously address, is why artefacts, in this case canons’ churches,...

  11. Towers and Radiating Chapels in Romanesque Architectural Iconography
    (pp. 99-110)
    Stephen Heywood

    St lawrence at Godmersham in Kent is principally renowned as the church attended by Jane Austen when staying at Godmersham Park. For the medievalist, however, it is better known for its tower (figs 1 and 2). This has an apse projecting from its east wall, prompting some to describe it as a survival or adaptation of the Anglo-Saxon tower-nave arrangement, as at Barton-on-Humber (Lincolnshire) and Earl’s Barton (Northamptonshire).¹ This paper will attempt to show that the tower at Godmersham was never free-standing, however, and that it is an excellent illustration of the deliberate use of architectural iconography, hitherto unrecognised.²


  12. Diffusion, Imitation and Evolution: The Uncertain Origins of ‘Beakhead’ Ornament
    (pp. 111-127)
    Roger Stalley

    Overlooking the broad reaches of the river Shannon, about half a mile from the ancient monastery of Clonmacnoise, lie the isolated ruins of the so-called ‘Nuns’ Church’, one of the more lavishly adorned Romanesque buildings in Ireland. Completed in 1167 with the assistance of Devorgilla (Dearbhforgaill), daughter of the king of Meath, this small church was designed to serve a community of Augustinian nuns.¹ The only entrance to the building was through a narrow doorway in the west façade, where the nuns were greeted by a series of monstrous animals, chewing the moulding of the arch (fig. 1). These exotic...

  13. Architecture and Pattern: The Western Façade of Lincoln Cathedral and Modernist Reference Points for its Interpretation
    (pp. 128-145)
    Veronica Sekules

    One of my formative experiences as a student was listening to a lecture about the differences between Romanesque and Gothic figurative art, in which Eric Fernie invoked different styles of comic strips in order to reinforce the point that Romanesque art was about realism and Gothic art about naturalism. My strongest memory is of a comparison he made between the figure styles of Peanuts cartoons and sculpture by Gislebertus at Autun, when he showed how, through a common economy of means, both reached right to the essence of the emotions portrayed. By contrast, the greater descriptive and graphic detail of...

  14. Home Sweet Mammoth: Neuroarchaeology and the Origins of Architecture
    (pp. 146-162)
    John Onians

    There are many possible ‘origins of architecture’. Other creatures make homes that have something of the substance, organization and complexity of buildings made by humans, but in almost all cases their layout is largely the product of behaviours which are manifested by all members of the species, being coded for in the species’ distinctive genetic material. Natural selection means that all members of the species share DNA which codes for the growth of particular neural resources, which then assure the development of those distinctive behaviours which are essential for the species’ survival. The building of a semi-permanent nest by a...

  15. Constantine and Helena: The Roman in English Romanesque
    (pp. 163-175)
    T. A. Heslop

    It is readily observed that people take their architecture with them. In the process of colonizing North America, unmistakably northern European styles and techniques of building were transported across the Atlantic. Further south, it was the architectural traditions of the Iberian Peninsula that were exported to Latin America. We can interpret this as a desire on the part of the emigrants involved to make a new home by replicating the essentials of their old one, or (less cosily) to imprint their culture on recently acquired territory. The two motives are clearly not mutually exclusive, and though they do not appear...

  16. For their Monuments, Look about You: Medieval Masons and their Tombs
    (pp. 176-191)
    Francis Woodman

    In a modern world bombarded with information, how does the public acquire a view of the role and status of the architect? Given the deluge of news from the press, television and, of course, the Web, today it is almost impossible not to know about construction projects and their often ‘celebrity’ architects. A canny potential client will inspect a practice’s previous and current projects, if possible in situ, while a visit to the office – its location, style, staffing – will provide an insight into professional business acumen and financial acuity. If the architect arrives at every meeting in yet...

  17. Baxandall’s Bridge and Charles IV’s Prague: An Exercise in Architectural Intention
    (pp. 192-220)
    Paul Crossley

    Much recent work on the epistemology of art has centred on the mysteries of the creative process, which has come under critical scrutiny from psychologists, philosophers of aesthetics and the art historian. ¹ Does creativity in art call for special talents that distinguish the artist from the general run of human beings? Do ‘truly’ creative artworks add something of interest to the world – something above the routine and the derivative? Can the art historian dare to identify creativity in art with durable and constant appeal – or will s/he fall back on explanations of the creative in terms of...

  18. Imitation as a Creative Vehicle in Michelangelo’s Art and Architecture
    (pp. 221-241)
    David Hemsoll

    Explaining buildings, as Eric Fernie impressed on me as a student, is a prime duty of an architectural historian. Doing so with reference to an architect’s particular design philosophy and creative process can, additionally, help account for the differences between their buildings and those of other architects, especially if this approach can be supported by informed contemporary testimony. Explaining Michelangelo’s buildings in this way presents a sizable challenge, but, as I have argued in a case study elsewhere, they would appear to owe much of their remarkable character to his attitude towards imitation, an attitude that was fundamentally different from...

  19. The ‘Façade Problem’ in Roman Churches, c. 1540–1640
    (pp. 242-265)
    Kerry Downes

    The front, or principal elevation, of a building may represent the character of its interior; alternatively it may express its character or its function, for example the urban cinema of the 1930s as a place of dreams and fantasy. Or it may do neither, whether because nobody thought that it mattered or – a fourth alternative – because the architect set out, for aesthetic reasons, deliberately to mislead. Of the two façades compared in the epigraph and illustrated in fig. 1, that on the right, of the Chiesa Nuova (S. Maria in Vallicella), Rome, has more to do with expression...

  20. Innovation and Traditionalism in Writings on English Romanesque
    (pp. 266-283)
    Richard Plant

    Given that Eric Fernie has always shown an interest – not universal among medievalists – in the modern, this contribution to a volume in his honour offers an investigation of the concept of innovation, or novelty, in Romanesque architecture in England. Three approaches suggested themselves, namely a review of the place of what has been regarded as innovatory in English Romanesque in the historiography of medieval architecture; an investigation of what appears to have been picked up as an innovation worth repeating in England in the eleventh and twelfth centuries; and finally, as a preliminary to this, a look at...

  21. Why Medieval Ireland Failed to Edify
    (pp. 284-305)
    Jenifer Ní Ghrádaigh

    The visual and material culture of medieval Ireland is far from a neglected area: indeed, with the constant expansion of the road network, man-made objects and landscapes are brought to the public’s attention in the most dramatic as well as most humdrum ways, through court cases, media coverage, traffic jams, academic petitions and governmental propaganda. Yet despite this ongoing spectacle of discovery, the study of Ireland’s medieval built environment is far from high-profile, while within the academic disciplines, there is a subtle but perceptible friction between art history and archaeology.¹ Given Eric Fernie’s contribution to, and continuing interest in, debates...

  22. The Chapel of the Hospital of Saint-Jean at Angers: Acta, Statutes, Architecture and Interpretation
    (pp. 306-314)
    Lindy Grant

    The hospital of Saint-Jean at Angers is remarkable for being one of the most extensive extant complexes of its kind from twelfth- and thirteenth-century Europe (fig. 1). Like most early hospital foundations, it lies on the margins of the city, in this case on the north bank of the Maine, across the river from Angers itself. It is not only exceptionally complete, but also unusually well documented. The cartulary, published by Célestin Port in 1870, illuminates the lives, deaths and anxieties of many of the hospital’s patrons and inmates.¹ Some twenty years after its foundation, it was provided with a...

  23. Sealed Architecture: City Seals, Architecture and Urban Identity in the Northern Netherlands, 1200–1700
    (pp. 315-332)
    Elisabeth de Bièvre

    Whenever and wherever in the world settlements took on characteristics we now associate with cities, we can find architectural images that reflect the community’s social, even emotional, priorities. One of the earliest is the wall painting reconstructed from a shrine at Çatal Hüyük (c. 6500 bc) representing a town plan with recurring rows of architectural units set beneath a black silhouette thought to represent an erupting volcano.¹ It seems as if the orderliness of the man-made environment, the regularity of the city’s layout and the neatness of the dwellings was intended to guarantee the transformation of the volcanic threat into...

  24. Style and Geography: Struggles for Identification in the Later Nineteenth Century
    (pp. 333-342)
    Stefan Muthesius

    In the history of art the term ‘style’ has been a long-lasting one; in fact, of all signification systems, it must rate as one of the most successful. It is taken as axiomatic that each and every work of art ‘possesses’, or enunciates a style. Among the different media of the visual arts, it is architecture which seems most strongly and most clearly connected with the concept of style. At the very least, a limited range of such style labels is quite widely known. As early as 1833 John Claudius Loudon held that ‘by the employment of style in an...

  25. The Dome of the Rock: From Medieval Symbol to Modern Propaganda
    (pp. 343-356)
    Robert Hillenbrand

    Everyone knows that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Similarly, if there is one thing that the twentieth century has taught us, it is that it is untrue to say that the camera cannot lie. It lies all the time. Consider the photographs that newspapers keep on file depicting famous people frozen in an expression, gesture or context that is damaging to their image, and that gives a false impression of them. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, that may not be a lie exactly, but it is surely a visual inexactitude.

    And monuments no less than people are...

  26. Towards a Cultural Geography of Modern Memorials
    (pp. 357-380)
    Andrew M. Shanken

    It is virtually impossible to move through a European or American city without passing memorials that prompt us – if we notice them at all – merely to scratch at some fading memory. Instead of recalling civic or national heroes, important events, or victories in battle, we see the erosions of time, the way they make way for the daily pulses of urban movement, or how commerce corrals them into corners where they can grow old invisibly. Even the most familiar memorials, ones that we use repeatedly or ritualistically to cultivate a sense of collective recall, constantly confront obsolescence and...

  27. Bicycle Sheds Revisited, or: Why are Houses Interesting?
    (pp. 381-398)
    Peter Guillery

    Early in a book titled The Small House in Eighteenth-century London I claimed that ‘houses are principally interesting because people live in them’.¹ Professor Peter Borsay, in a review essay titled ‘Why are houses interesting?’, picked up on this and commented that for many architectural historians this statement would be incomprehensible. He continued:

    There is a wealth of serious academic studies of architecture, but the majority are written in a language which can seem arcane to the uninitiated and address an agenda which appears little interested in those who inhabited the buildings. At the heart of the problem lies the...

  28. Index
    (pp. 399-412)
  29. Back Matter
    (pp. 413-413)